Nashville, Tenn. ( Associated Press) — The Cincinnati Bengals just keep ending their post-season drought, and their latest win has netted them their first AFC Championship Game in 33 years.
Rookie Evan McPherson kicked a 52-yard field goal as time ran out, ending the NFL’s longest active road playoff skid as the fourth-seeded Bengals beat the top-seeded Tennessee Titans 19-16 on Saturday.
Cincinnati coach Zack Taylor said of McPherson, “He’s got ice in his veins.” “There’s nothing more to say. That’s as cool as it gets.”
A week after ending a 31-year playoff win drought, the Bengals (12–7) finally won their first road game after losing their first seven. They reached the 1981 and 1988 Super Bowls by winning at their home turf.
Cincinnati will play the other AFC Divisional Round game on Sunday with the winner of the Buffalo-Kansas City matchup in the AFC Championship game next Sunday.
The Bengals stopped Ryan Tanhill three times, setting up two of McPherson’s four field goals. Logan Wilson picked Tanhill in the Cincinnati 47 with 20 seconds remaining. Joe Burrow hit Pro Bowl rookie receiver Ja’Mar Chase with a 19-yard pass, then the Bengals ran twice to set up McPherson for the win.
“It’s a kicker’s dream,” McPherson said, “to carry the game on his shoulders.”
Burrow was dismissed nine times as Tennessee maintained the most NFL mark in the postseason by four other teams. The Bengals’ second-year quarterback threw 348 yards, and Chase conceded 109 yards.
Joe Mixon ran for the Bengals’ only touchdown, 16-yards on his first drive of the third quarter.
“We found a way around all year,” Burrow said. “Man, crazy, crazy game. It’s a really, really good team. Incredible defensive line. They had a great plan on defense. Credit to them, we finally found a way.”
The Titans (12-6) ended their 25th season in Tennessee as the AFC’s No. 1 seed with a third consecutive loss at their own ground. They have not won at home since the January 2003 season.
“I don’t think Ryan or I or anyone has done enough to win the game,” Titans coach Mike Wrabel said. “It goes like this. It will never be about one person, unless I am the head coach, it will take some time.
Derrick Henry, at Tennessee, was the 2020 Associated Press NFL Offensive Player of the Year when he missed nine games with a broken leg. He ran for a touchdown and finished with 66 yards.
Tanhill was selected in the first game of the Titans’ game. His second came on the first and goal in the Bengals 9 in the third. He finished with 220 yards. AJ Brown took five catches for 142 yards.
Burrow was the NFL’s most dismissed quarterback during the season, just ahead of Tannehill.
The Titans sacked him on his first snap and had three in the first quarter alone. Burrow joined Donovan McNab as the only quarterback to have been sacked at least eight times in the playoffs and won. McNab and Philadelphia won 20–17 in overtime against Green Bay.
Titans had plenty of chances to win.
Henry was stopped at fourth and -1 at Cincinnati 37, trying to score a long field goal for the lead with 7:16 remaining instead of Tennessee. After scoring 10 points within 90 seconds in the third quarter, tying it at 16, he got the ball back with 2:43 and plenty of time to drive for the winning field goal.
But Tennessee showed little awareness of the clock, with only one play going on before the clock went off for a 2-minute warning. On the third play, Tannehill’s pass to Nick Westbrook-Eikhin was taken from Wilson setting up the field goal for the Bengals to win.
“All day we were just shooting ourselves in the foot,” Brown said of the Titans.
McPherson converted 50 yards or more for his 11th field goal, the most for a player in a season.
“He took the big step and got us where we needed to go,” Burrow said.
Tennessee’s five sacks in the first half were the most in a playoff game since January 8, 2000, when the Titans sacked Buffalo quarterback Rob Johnson five times in a game known for the Music City Miracle. Burrow was only the third quarterback since 1991 to be dismissed at least five times in the first half of a playoff game.
Tennessee tied the NFL playoff mark previously set by Kansas City against the then Oilers on January 3, 1987, on January 16, 1994, versus Cleveland versus the Jets; The 49ers against the Bears on January 6, 1985, and the Buffaloes against the Chiefs on January 1, 1967.
Titans LB David Long was injured early in the third quarter but walked off the field. He missed six games with an injured hamstring. … Bengals Pro Bowl defensive end Trey Hendrickson, freed from an injury that ruled him out of last week’s wild-card win, went over the edge with 1:46. This gave the Bengalis a time-out which they did not need.
Bengals: Will wait to see if they play Kansas City or Buffalo next Sunday.
Titans: Step into the off-season looking for more changes to return to the AFC Championship Game.
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